We had a very satisfactory result in 2022, which underlined our growth strategy and our claim to be a stable and reliable partner for our stakeholders. At 12.6 billion euro, VIG’s premium volume improved by 14.1%; the profit before taxes was 10% higher, profit after taxes 24% higher than in the previous year. The numbers concerning our performance in the first half of 2023 too are extremely positive despite the continuing challenges. Our excellent capital position and our business model with a strong regional focus – which allows rapid, customised action where required – remain fundamental factors behind our continuing success in very challenging times.
BALFIN Group maintained a steady growth throughout 2022, with our banking, real estate and retail industries leading the way, despite the fluctuations on the international markets. Our economic activity increased by 11% as compared to the previous year. We served over 80,000 clients every day, in more than 230 points of sale or offices in all countries where we operate. The main reason for this positive performance is a series of investments made as part of a long-term strategy. We invested about 85 million euro in 2022, mostly in Austria, Switzerland, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and North Macedonia. Another essential factor for our continued success is our dedicated workforce of over 5,000 professionals spread across ten countries. They play a pivotal role in overcoming challenges and proactively pursuing new opportunities.
Investment in Vlora Marina stands at 350 million euro, as 45 million euro were dedicated to the marina’s construction. Accessible via a well-connected highway and just ten minutes from Vlora International Airport, this mixed-use project hosts Albania’s largest marina, featuring 438 mooring spots for yachts and mega-yachts, ready to welcome global visitors to experience Albania’s unmatched beauty and hospitality.
MFG Invest (BUL:MFG) invests in start-up and scale-up companies whose activity is in the field of fintech services, e-commerce, creation and sale of technologies that have applications in various business areas such as, but not limited to, education, agriculture, security, storage of data and more. MFG Invest does not invest in companies that are at the “idea” stage and do not have a developed product or permanent team. The purpose of the company is to manage its equity portfolio by supporting the development of the companies in it through sharing the long-term experience and expertise of MFGI team members. The company is traded on the beam market of the Bulgarian Stock Exchange since the beginning of 2023.
Instinct’s ambitions go beyond the already developed seven European markets of the other companies in the MFG group. In October, the company launches sales with a partner network of brokers, travel agencies, etc., which are outside the MFG group’s own sales network and customer base, and will also look for a higher segment of customers, and through its online sales channel – customers who primarily use technology through a computer, phone or other device. The company is focused on innovating different and unfamiliar solutions to existing products within the scope of the granted license, which are unique to the Bulgarian insurance market.
Niro Investment Group embarked on its venture into the hospitality sector five years ago, initiating two groundbreaking projects. Corinthia Grand Hotel Boulevard Bucharest, located in an iconic building in the very heart of the city, will epitomize the first luxury boutique hotel under the Corinthia brand in Romania. With 30 opulent suites, a Grand Ballroom, an internationally renowned F&B Operator, personalized meeting spaces, and exclusive amenities, this establishment seeks to revive the building’s initial grandeur in harmony with Corinthia’s hallmark standards. In parallel, Niro Investment Group is building a premium hotel in northern Bucharest under the Swissôtel brand, a flagship of the largest European hotel operator, Accor.
Designed as a temporary funding instrument of the European Union that can mobilise up to 723 billion euro (at 2022 prices) in grants and loans, the NGEU was established to encourage the completion of investments and structural reform measures. The ECB staff estimate that, the NGEU may increase the level of real GDP in the euro area by up to 1.5% by 2026 if fully implemented (The economic impact of Next Generation EU: a euro area perspective (europa.eu)). This makes quite a difference as it will lift growth prospects further.
The NGEU is a temporary funding instrument of the European Union designed to mobilise up to 723 billion euro in grants and loans to encourage investments and structural reform measures. If fully implemented, the NGEU could increase the real GDP in the euro area by up to 1.5 percentage points by 2026, significantly lifting growth prospects. As of now, two and a half years into the program, the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) disbursements have reached 107 billion euro, which is more than 30% of the total expected to be requested by EU countries in the period 2021-2026.
Our focus has always been on SMEs, where we have unique skills in the market and branches located in all areas of Romania, where other banks do not reach. We are well positioned in our relationship with our customers in several segments and we see that the bank is appreciated by its customers and they enjoy working with us. We are well positioned in the micro, SME and mid corporate segments, but also in the specialised sectors – medical and agriculture. Some of these will continue to benefit from public investments and European funds. We still have a significant gap with Western Europe in the medical sector – investments are needed and we have the know-how to help customers. In retail banking we have a few areas where we have reached network effects – BT Pay is the banking and payments app with most users in Romania, and STAR is the largest ecosystem of retailers and credit cards.
Despite the conflict in Ukraine, the sale of our business in Russia and Belarus, as well as the cease of our operations in the volatile and crisis-ridden Romanian motor insurance market, our group continues to be very well positioned in the region. All other units within our structure are performing well and developing their business steadily. This trend has been confirmed by the leading rating agency, Fitch Ratings, which in August affirmed the ‘B+’ Insurer Financial Strength Rating with stable outlook of Euroins Bulgaria, the group’s largest subsidiary. The rating agency’s assessment is that the business of the group’s entities remains stable even after our withdrawal from the Romanian motor insurance market. Fitch also affirmed the same ratings of the holding company.
The energy sector completely took over the ranking of the fastest growing companies in Southeastern Europe (SEE) last year as the global energy crisis triggered by the Russia-Ukraine war propelled electricity and gas prices to record highs. The most dynamic companies in SEE by revenue in 2022 were seven energy traders, a thermal power plant, an oil refiner and a biodiesel producer.In comparison, a year earlier the ranking also included transportation, wholesale companies, and a steel producer.
In 2022, Sirma achieved a growth rate of 25.8%, which is a significant success. The year proved strong with business recovery after COVID-19, as Sirma won several new customers and expanded into new markets. Additionally, we completed a major deal that resulted in the majority stake of Sirma AI (trading as Ontotext) being sold. Later, we negotiated with the EBRD to sell our remaining minority stake, which we finalised in early 2023. The transaction resulted in a negative impact on consolidated earnings.
In a year marked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – the biggest attack on a European country since WWII – traditional geopolitical alignments and economic trajectories were thrown off kilter, not least in front-line Southeast European states, whose energy sectors had historically been heavily dependent on Russia. With energy security and diversification taking precedence, it comes as no surprise that 2022 was a blockbuster year for petroleum and natural gas, and electricity companies.
Rezolv Energy is a clean power producer established to build a multi-gigawatt portfolio of wind, solar and energy storage projects in South Eastern Europe. Backed by 500 million euro from investment firm Actis, Rezolv already has well over 2GW of clean energy being prepared for construction. This includes St. George, which will become one of Bulgaria’s largest solar plants, and Dama Solar, which will be the largest solar project anywhere in Europe once it is operational. Rezolv also has more than 1GW of wind power being prepared for construction in Romania. The company’s plan is to grow its pipeline to 4GW within the next three to five years. The power from these projects will be sold to commercial and industrial users through longterm Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).
We expect economic activity to gain momentum next year. Our economists at UniCredit Bulbank forecast real GDP growth to accelerate to 2.9% year-on-year next year, as compared to 1.9% anticipated in 2023. We think that easing inflationary pressure would help private consumption growth to remain resilient, while, in the context of the persistent shortages of labour in almost every sector of the economy, real wages growth is set to accelerate next year, which bodes well for consumption.
In a dynamic and competitive business environment, you need to constantly look for ways to create value, differentiate yourself, and gain an edge over your rivals. One of the most effective ways to do that is to form strategic alliances and partnerships with other organisations that can complement your strengths and enhance your offerings, and this is why Photomate has became Huawei VAP in 2015. Huawei is the largest inverter producer in the world, with top tier quality products on which, we Photomate, add top tier services for our customer. The combination of the two puts us in a lead position in Romanian market.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 trapped approximately 20 million tonnes of grain in Ukrainian ports. Given Ukraine’s critical role both as a major producer and exporter of key agricultural products, global food supply chains faced immense pressure and food prices soared. As a result, a series of measures were taken to alleviate the impact of Russian blockages on Ukrainian grain exports. In May 2022, the European Commission (EC) launched the Solidarity Lanes Action Plan to establish alternative logistics routes. A month later, the EU lifted tariffs on imports from Ukraine for twelve months, with the moratorium being extended for an additional year in April 2023.
We have always focused on providing quality products and services at the right price, bringing continuity to our customers’ lives in a simple and predictable way. In other words, we focused on being that partner that people need to live their lives confidently. All of this, together with a high-performing team and a strong brand, determined our success. We achieved very good results across all business lines and recorded double-digit increases, both in the Auto or Non-Auto sectors. We continued to consolidate these results throughout this year as well. Furthermore, Groupama now has a significantly enhanced presence in the RCA sector (civil liability car insurance), a position undertaken and built on the principle of delivering quality at a fair price.